P Z Myers nails it again

Excellent dissection of Creationist Conflationary Confusion.

https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/evo-devo refutes evolution

Short version may be summarized:

Deuterostomes have a dorsal central nerve cord whereas Protostomes have a ventral central nerve chord.

Contrary to introductory textbook orthodoxy, this may be the only real distinguishing feature between the two.

It would be interesting to determine which was more ancestral.

Calvinist apologist deconverts from Christianity (but not theism)

Tyler Vela, a Calvinist apologist and an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in America who converted from atheism to Christianity as a young man, graduated with a Pre-seminary B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from the Moody Bible Institute, and was partway through a Masters of Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary, has announced his deconversion at his Youtube channel, The Freed Thinker. Recently, he was interviewed by Derek Lambert of Mythvision on his reasons for leaving Christianity, several months ago. The interview may be viewed here:

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The field of bioelectricity is very enlightening. The intro to Michael Levin’s lab states:

We work at the intersection of developmental biology, computer science, and cognitive science. Our goal is to understand degrees of intelligence at multiple scales of biological, artificial, and hybrid systems; we use these insights to develop interventions in regenerative medicine.

This discussion with Michael Levin gives more details on their operation and experiments. Continue reading

The mystery of celebrity endorsements

In the photo above, you can see the famous basketball player Shaquille O’Neal endorsing Epson printers. He was undoubtedly paid a lot of money for that, because Epson believed that the increase in profits would more than offset the large expenditure. Companies pay big bucks for celebrity endorsements, so they’re obviously convinced that these endorsements are effective. Continue reading

Rationalizing Hell

Detail from The Last Judgement, Jan Van Eyck

Perhaps the most disturbing idea in Christian dogma is the notion of hell — a place of unending torment for the detestable souls who don’t qualify for a blissful eternity with God and the angels in heaven. Who are these horrible people who are condemned to agonizing, eternal punishment? Those who don’t believe in Jesus. That’s it. Merely failing to believe in Jesus means you are one of the loathsome vermin who must suffer forever, with no possibility of a respite, and not even the prospect of a welcome oblivion. Continue reading

Dr. Gavin Ortlund’s defense of C.S. Lewis’s “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” trichotomy, and Why I think it won’t work on skeptics

In this blog article, I’ll be summarizing Dr. Gavin Ortlund‘s recent rehabilitation of C. S. Lewis’s “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” trichotomy, which he defended last year in a 41-minute interview (shown below) with Cameron Bertuzzi, who runs the Youtube channel, Capturing Christianity. After that, I’ll be playing devil’s advocate and responding as if I were a skeptic, instead of a Catholic. The views I advance here are not my own: my intention in playing devil’s advocate is to illustrate how an intelligent unbeliever might go about refuting this popular argument for Christianity. In so doing, I hope to persuade apologists like Dr. Ortlund that the argument should not be used against skeptics. Without further ado, here it is:

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Without the threat of eternal damnation, are there no personal advantages to being truthful?

I came across the following by Kairosfocus while wasting time reading comments at uncommon descent:

FP, do you not see many who gain much by lies and fraud, and die in full benefit of ill gotten gains? Is that not a commonplace? In short, VB is right to highlight that without the eternal reckoning, it is simply not the case that truth telling is to one’s advantage, short or long term. More to the point, kids have to be taught is a fallacy in this context, as was noted. KF

is he correct?

Will AI ever be conscious? Is it already? Nope

Earlier this week there was a debate on Consciousness in the Machine, basically asking whether machines can be conscious. In a somewhat different manner than myself, Bernardo Kastrup rejects the idea. Kastrup says that it’s a hypothesis not worth entertaining, and from entertaining the idea bad things follow. From Kastrup’s blog,

Those who take the hypothesis of conscious AI seriously do so based on an appallingly biased notion of isomorphism—a correspondence of form, or a similarity—between how humans think and AI computers process data. To find that similarity, however, one has to take several steps of abstraction away from concrete reality. After all, if you put an actual human brain and an actual silicon computer on a table before you, there is no correspondence of form or functional similarity between the two at all; much to the contrary. A living brain is based on carbon, burns ATP for energy, metabolizes for function, processes data through neurotransmitter releases, is moist, etc., while a computer is based on silicon, uses a differential in electrical potential for energy, moves electric charges around for function, processes data through opening and closing electrical switches called transistors, is dry, etc. They are utterly different.

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ChatGPT narrates TSZ

By now, many of you will have heard of ChatGPT. If you haven’t, be prepared — you’re going to hear a lot about it over the coming weeks and months.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language model with an impressive ability to understand and generate humanlike text, drawing on a vast reservoir of knowledge gleaned from the internet. (It also makes stuff up, which can be a real problem.) It answers queries and can write stories, articles, computer code, and even (bad) poems. I don’t yet understand much about how it works, but when I learn more, I’ll describe it in the comments. Continue reading

Cockatoo intelligence and social learning

We’ve been underestimating birds for far too long. Here’s a great story about how Australian cockatoos have figured out how to open lidded trash bins and how the knowledge has been spreading through local populations via social learning. There are even regional cockatoo cultures which differ in which bin-opening technique the local birds use.

Crafty cockatoos master dumpster diving and teach each other

“Teach each other” is a bit of an exaggeration, but they do learn from each other. Continue reading

More arguments for the soul, examined

In the previous thread I examined (starting here) a couple of Richard Swinburne’s arguments for the soul, pointing out why I think they are flawed.

Because I find this stuff so interesting, I thought I would look for some more pro-soul arguments and open another thread to discuss them. This topic is important to a lot of people, particular those whose religious or spiritual beliefs invoke some concept of a soul or a soul-like entity. Continue reading

Did I lose my mind to science?

That’s the title of a new article at the Patheos website, which describes itself as “the world’s homepage for all religion”. The article is the first in a series by Ted Peters, emeritus professor of theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, who understands the threat that materialism (aka physicalism) poses to traditional religious views regarding the self. Continue reading

USA: Eroding the separation of church and state is an ongoing bipartisan effort

First up, let’s agree that Christian Nationalism is a problem. Separation of church and state is a worthwhile principle. Also, laws instituted to guard this principle, such as that churches are considered tax-free non-profit organisations, as long as they do not participate in election campaigning, are good.
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A Milestone (Millstone?) for Christianity in England and Wales

Results from the decennial census show that for the first time ever, fewer than half of English and Welsh citizens identify as Christian. The decline has been precipitous, as shown by the graph.

It appears that most of the Christians jumping ship end up in the ‘no religion’ category rather than converting to another religion. No data on how many of them still believe in a god or gods, or in a ‘higher power’. Also interesting that if established trends continue, the ‘no religion’ folks will become a majority in the not very distant future.

The graph comes from this BBC article.

Body, Soul, and Spirit

Some people consider the human to consist of a body with all other aspects to be derivative from this fundamental reality. Some people are more inclined to view the human as having a body and soul, with the soul being in some way primal.

I believe the human can be regarded as being composed of body, soul and spirit. But there are other ways of analysis other than seeing the threefold division.

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What is a Woman?

Matt Walsh is asking this question in his new book and movie and getting a variety of answers it seems. Being a data driven science type guy, I like to start answering questions like this with observations. What observations can we make about women (and men) besides the obvious physical differences? Well if I had to characterize women vs. men over the whole scope of what we call history — the past 6000 years or so — I’d probably characterize women (contrasted with men) as generally … more nurturing, more empathetic, more emotional, more discerning, less creative / more maintaining … and men (contrasted with women) as generally … less nurturing more conquering / destroying, less empathetic, less emotional, less discerning, more creative / less maintaining. To summarize … I would say that Woman = Discerner / Revealer / Nurturer … Man = Maker / Conqueror / Destroyer. Of course these are generalities and there are definitely areas of overlap. Also, there will be debate as to WHY these differences exist. Some say it’s social conditioning and some say it’s more biological. What say you?


How are you all? How’s it been going?

I got diagnosed with an ocular melanoma in the middle of COVID which was a bit of a shock. It was discovered incidentally during an assessment for treatment of a complication of cataract surgery in the other eye.  Which was lucky, and I was treated very promptly, despite COVID restrictions, and all seems well, although it’s left me with somewhat impaired sight.

A momentous few years for us all, in small ways and large. It’s good to be back. The Evolution debates seem all a bit small scale in the face of climate breakdown and rising fascism, and yet again a serious threat of global nuclear war.

But good to see some familiar names still here. Thanks for keeping the penguins warm!